March 22, 2024

Message from VUMC Enterprise Cybersecurity: avoid ‘free’ software downloads

The appeal of free online software is undeniable. The internet offers a plethora of free downloads that are a click away. The VUMC Enterprise Cybersecurity (VEC) department has recently seen an uptick in users downloading PDF software that claims to be ‘free.’

Amidst the convenience of such free software lies a realm of potential dangers that users often overlook or do not see. It can harbor significant risks that threaten both personal security and data integrity, such as malware infestation, privacy breaches, and legal implications, to name a few. To help employees understand the dangers of these risks, we have outlined what each scenario can do to a device.

Malware Infestation

Malicious actors often disguise harmful software with free applications. Once installed, these programs can wreak havoc on your device, compromising sensitive data, and even rendering it unusable.

Privacy Breaches

Many free software offerings come with strings attached in the form of invasive data collection practices. Users often unknowingly consent to sharing personal information such as browsing habits, location data, and even keystrokes in exchange for free access.

Legal Implications

Pirated software violates copyright laws and intellectual property rights, subjecting users to potential lawsuits and penalties. Even legitimate free software may be governed by complex licensing agreements that users inadvertently violate, leading to legal entanglements for VUMC.

What should users do?

If users have an IT need for software or applications, they should consult with their IT support team to fulfill that need and refrain from downloading ‘free’ software online. Employees can also utilize VUMC resources, such as calling the Help Desk at 615-343-HELP (3-4357), browsing the VUMC Software Store, or submitting a request through Pegasus.